With so many stars injured, nothing is guaranteed for the Storm these days, not even a home game against the last-place team in the league, and not even after scoring the first 11 points.
Atlanta recovered from the early 11-point hole to defeat Seattle 77-66 on Friday night at Alaska Airlines Arena, sending the Storm to its third straight home loss, the first time that has happened to the team since the 2015 season.
Storm coach Dan Hughes didn’t watch the final quarter. He got the boot late in the third quarter, with a pair of technical fouls just after Seattle guard Shavonte Zellous got a technical foul for slamming the ball to the court after teammate Crystal Langhorne was called for an offensive foul.
Storm players appreciated their coach coming to Zellous’ defense.
“Once he got the first (technical foul), I thought he was going to get the second one,” said Storm guard Sami Whitcomb, who had a team-high five assists and four steals.”It shows that he obviously has our backs and we found it motivating.”
Hughes said it wasn’t the first time he has been ejected, but he said “it’s been long enough that I don’t remember when.”
“I am in it with them, but I was just coaching,” Hughes said. “That is all I will say about that.”
It was a tough game all around for Seattle (8-8), which has been without reigning WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart (Achilles), All-Star point guard Sue Bird (knee) and starting guard Jewell Loyd (ankle). On Friday, it was also without forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (ankle). She had played in the team’s first 15 games, starting five times.
The injuries didn’t seem to matter early against the struggling Dream (3-9), which entered Friday having not won on the road (0-4) and was coming off four straight losses, all by at least 10 points. And on May 31, Seattle won 82-66, in Atlanta, its most lopsided win of the season.
Seattle took a 6-0 lead in the first 79 seconds, causing Dream coach Nicki Collen to call an early timeout.
The Storm’s lead grew to 11-0, and it did not look good for Atlanta. But Seattle quit scoring, going 5 minutes, 13 seconds without a point.
Atlanta tied the score at 11 with 2:07 remaining in the quarter, undoubtedly sending someone scouring the WNBA record book to find the last time a game started with dueling 11-0 runs.
Atlanta pushed the lead to 26-15 (a 22-4 run spanning two quarters), before Seattle, spurred by three straight steals, scored six points in 34 seconds to get the crowd back in the game. But the Dream responded and led 32-24 at halftime.
“We started exactly the way we wanted to,” Hughes said. “When you’re not a veteran in your roles, you think the whole game is going to be like that. … In this league, teams are going to come back.”
The Dream pushed the lead to 16 points midway through the third quarter (48-32), and the frustration that was mounting boiled over a few minutes later when Zellous slammed the ball to the floor.
And no wonder. This was not like losing by two points to Phoenix or by a point to New York, the Storm’s previous two losses. Seattle trailed by 21 (75-54) with 3:33 left before going on a 12-0 run that helped make the final score more respectable.
The Storm gets plenty of time to regroup, not playing again until Friday against Dallas at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Hughes said he expects Lewis back for the next game and he said Loyd is getting close to returning.
“Jewell has worked as hard as I have ever seen an athlete work,” Hughes said. “Every time I walk in, she’s in there working,”
Even the healthy Storm players are looking forward to the break.
“We’ve been playing nonstop since the season started,” said Storm forward Natasha Howard, who had a team-high 20 points. “We all need time to recuperate and recharge.”